An imaginary line running roughly from Aberdeen to Glasgow separates the Highlands in the north and west from the Lowlands in the south and east.

Scotland is surrounded by the North Sea, offering fish, oil and natural gas, and potentially tidal and wave power. In 1997, the population was 5,122,500, with over 3 million persons in the Central Belt.

This distribution shows the effects of rural depopulation, especially during the "Highland Clearances" (c.

1790–1830), when landlords forced tenants off their land to modernize the economy, especially through sheep raising.

Some tenants were resettled in coastal villages and encouraged to supplement farming with fishing, linen weaving, and kelp manufacture, while many others migrated to the Central Belt or emigrated abroad.

To the south, the heavily urbanized Central Belt encompasses Dundee, Edinburgh, Saint Andrews, Stirling, Paisley, and Glasgow.

The premier cities of Edinburgh in the east and Glasgow in the west embody important cultural contrasts and antagonisms within this urban frame.The more mountainous Borders region to the south and east of this belt is more rural. Scotland occupies approximately the northern third of the United Kingdom's (UK) mainland, encompassing 7.5 million hectares.There is population flow between Scotland and England and between Scotland, Ireland, and Northern Ireland. The area of Scotland is 29,795 square miles (77,168 square kilometers). Much land in the Highlands and Borders is rugged and difficult to cultivate, but the Lowlands and parts of the Borders include prime agricultural land.Industrialization led to massive urbanization in the nineteenth century during which the population increased from around 1.5 million to 4.5 million, with the growth concentrated in and around Glasgow.Immigrants from the Highlands and Ireland played a major role in this growth.Today there are around sixty-five thousand native Gaelic speakers.